Author Blythe McGarvie works today as a consultant and board member of such global giants as Accenture, Pepsi Bottling, and St. Paul Travelers. In addition, she served previously as CFO of Bic Group, a Fortune 500 company. Through her performance in these roles, she's demonstrated her own career savvy. Now she seeks to pass on the lessons. As McGarvie explains it, the central challenge for leaders of modern, complex organizations is to understand how different people, processes, and trends integrate with each other ("fit in"), while at the same time retaining enough perspective and strength to transform those pieces and make their whole greater than the sum of individual parts ("stand out").
In a breezy writing style that weaves together perspectives from her personal experiences with anecdotes from a wide range of companies, such as GE, Microsoft, and Marriott, McGarvie makes the argument for 6 key traits. Leaders who want to fit in and also stand out, she says, must possess financial acumen; integrity; an ability to envision, build, and maintain alliances; learn; offer perspective; and practice global citizenship.
By themselves, the traits McGarvie describes are hardly ground-breaking. Some may criticize this book for rehashing old management axioms in an all too familiar way. The value of McGarvie's perspectives comes from her efforts to tie each of the 6 traits to a specific by-product which helps leaders both fit in and stand out. Financial acuity, she writes, provides leaders with a key dose of confidence necessary for their jobs. Integrity builds trust. Linkages provide access to new opportunities, both for leaders and for their teams. Learning provides ongoing innovation. Perspective leads to balanced judgment. And finally, global citizenship leads to agility. The heart of McGarvie's book comes from her explanations of the effects of these 6 qualities on a leader's reputation within an organization.
Another helpful quality of this book is its explanation of priorities: in a pinch, should aspiring CEOs fit in first, or stand out? These paths don't always conflict, but when they do, how should the tradeoff be resolved? According to McGarvie, they should fit in before standing out. Hopefully, though, most readers of this book will benefit from its insights, and avoid giving up one or the other for too long. --Peter Han
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